Some, for instance, might argue that the word “green” has more than one meaning.
And others might claim that “organic” refers to food grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Yet such definitions are misleading as they don’t cover all of the ways in which those words can be used.
A store could be labeled as organic even if some food is imported from China where pesticide usage is still allowed and
a majority of their produce is genetically modified. The “organic” label does not fully describe the quality of the food, nor does it describe the practices used to produce the food.
The “organic” label implies that a product would never be able to be certified as “natural”, yet this is not true.
The first use of “natural” in relation to food products occurred in 1843 when Charles Perry,
an editor and politician from Maine, publicly opposed a bill that required dyes to be used on foods labeled as “natural.” He wrote in his newspaper:
Fruits and vegetables which are really natural products may be grown and produced without using any artificial coloring matter or any other added substance whatever.
Why then should any labelling law be necessary to enable the public to distinguish between natural products and those of an artificial character?
This law would have prohibited the use of the words “natural” and “unadulterated” on food packages.
The bill was defeated and “natural” lost its role as a regulated word. It wasn’t until 1944 when
the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was passed that Congress defined “natural.”
In this act Congress stated that the term referred to something that had been prepared or preserved without artificial or synthetic ingredients.
Natural flavors could also be added to foods by manufacturers. Because of this, a product can be labeled “natural” despite the fact that it contains ingredients made in a lab.
Beginning in 2002, the United States Food and Drug administration Modernization Act required
that if a food labeled as “natural” contains both artificial and natural ingredients, the label must explain which ingredient is artificial.
However, this did not help to clarify what exactly is meant by “natural.” While most would assume
that the word refers to foods from nature and minimally processed foods with no additives,
this does not seem to be true. In fact, some companies are able to use highly processed foods or additives and still label their food as “natural.
The term “natural” has taken on so much meaning that it is difficult to define.
It is the process used by a business to make their food, not the ingredients used, that is important.
But because of this and the controversial meaning of this word, food companies have become hesitant
to label their products as “natural.” In fact, many food experts are now questioning whether or not the word “natural” should even be used at all.
An updated definition would look more like this: ” natural – it (or something) was made without using any artificial or synthetic ingredients .”
Some people argue that no matter what you call your foods, they should still reflect the qualities of nature.
In other words, consumers should be able to go out into their yard and pick the foods for their dinner.
Yet others argue that labels only make sense if there is a way to regulate what is meant by that word.
For example, there are regulations in place for the word “organic” which means something different than the word “natural”.
The FDA has yet not decided on whether or not they will change their definition of natural.
In fact they have stated that they have no plans on doing so at this time. The FDA is concerned with food safety and nutrition, not marketing products.
“natural” is an ambiguous term. It is hard to define what it can mean.
This means that businesses are not sure if they are allowed to use this word in their labeling or not.
There is also no way of knowing what the consumer believes the term “natural” means, because
it is a subjective term used by many people to describe different things and products.
The ambiguity in the term “natural” means that many foods with different nutritional values, added ingredients,
and processes are labeled as natural. Consumers can be mislead into buying foods that
contain many unnatural ingredients and processes because these foods may be labeled as natural. unaligated
The history of the word “natural” can be seen in the food industry using the word to describe their products.
In 1938, the FDA was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who made the definition of “natural” part of federal law.
The FDA has used this law to bring remedies against companies that are selling foods with false labeling claims.